You just do it.
You force yourself to get up.
You force yourself to put one foot
In front of the other,
And God damn it,
You refuse to let it get to you.
Then you go about the business of living.
That's how I've done it.
There's no other way.
The tears started before the words. I'd held it in for so long, I didn't know where to begin.
"I need my daddy," I sobbed. Ro and Ali came to me, circling me in their arms. We spent a few minutes rocking and crying before I was able to speak again.
"I just moved on when it happened, you know? Someone had to take care of Mom and the business, and we'd just opened our shop. I didn't think I had time to sit around and grieve, the way Mom did. She took a month off, and then she only had a few weeks before school was out. She moped around that whole summer, then when school started back up, she was refreshed and ready to go. Me, I cried myself to sleep at night from the sheer exhaustion and feeling so overwhelmed."
"I remember how bad it was for all of us, but you seemed so strong, B. You just worked right through everything, always there to help someone else. Why didn't you tell us sooner it's still this bad?"
I looked at Rosie's stern face, and I shrugged. I didn't need guilt added to the other emotions. "I was afraid of bringing everyone else down with me, and honestly, I was afraid to look weak."
"Iz, you're one of the strongest women I've ever met. I could never see you as weak, even if you'd leaned on us more." Alice was right, of course. It was similar to what my mom had said to me.
"Mom told me there's a difference between relying on someone and supporting each other. I think that's why I haven't had a steady relationship, honestly. I can't lean on someone else, it's not in my nature."
Alice said, "That's your stubborn side, for sure. You need to find someone that's equal to you, not some idiot looking to mooch off of you."
I snorted. "Like Jake."
"Yeah, he's the no-no in that scenario."
Rosie laughed. "He thinks his dick is so good that he can act like one."
Alice chimed in, "He thinks his balls are so low they're dragging, but that's his knuckles he keeps tripping over."
The three of us laughed so hard we fell over each other, a snotty, giggling mess. I was the first to sit up, throwing back the other whiskey. Ro finished hers and moved on to a beer, and Alice got herself a bottle of water. We turned a movie on, but the other two fell asleep on my couch before it was over.
I hadn't mentioned Edward, but I needed to. I needed their advice. Was he worth fighting for, or should I move on to someone that wanted me, instead of pushing me away? There were one or two guys I could picture dating, but not settling down with.
I still needed my dad's advice, but instead I decided I would see my mom the next day.
I hadn't seen Jasper since before my trip to the desert, so I called him up while I was off for the weekend, and drove out to see him. He'd settled in Port Angeles a few years ago, working as a photographer. I met him at Lake Crescent, where he was taking shots of the lake and mountains with the light at different times of day.
"Hey, Jasper!" I called to him as I walked nearer. The sky was clear and beautiful, with only a few clouds ringing the mountain in the distance. Jasper and I spent a great deal of time just sitting by the lake as he readjusted his lenses and snapped shot after shot.
When he stopped to take a break, he tossed me a bottle of water from his cooler before sitting on the picnic table. I took a piece of the bench near him, watching the water move gently for a few minutes.
"How did it go over there, Corporal?" he asked.
"It's Sergeant now." I shifted to watch the sun's progression. "When I went back to the office at the end of last month after my leave was up, I signed the promotion papers." I sat in silence for a minute before answering his original question.
"It was rough at times. It's hotter than the Devil's own Hell, and then there are these sandstorms that take your breath, your sight. You find sand in your ears and your clothes, and in every crevice God gave you. It's more bearable at night, when the temps drop. Then again, we did plenty of night missions, where I had to use the infrared and heat vision on the drone and pray I didn't send the boys into an ambush. When you're huddled on a rooftop working the controls, and there's gunfire all around you…" I scratched my chin.
"So what you're saying is, you had a nice poolside vacation," Jasper deadpanned.
I snorted. "Asshole."
"I'm glad you're back safe, really."
"And what are you doing with yourself after Jane?" he asked.
"Confusing myself," I answered cryptically.
"What does that mean?"
"Nothing, you said you had something you wanted my opinion about?"
He sighed. "Yeah, my girl wants me to move to your sprawling mecca."
"What's so bad about that? You freelance, you don't have to stick with one city."
He gave me a droll look. "There's nothing more suffocating than a small ass town. Everybody knows your business, you never meet anyone new, everyone's closed at 8 and all day Sunday." He shuddered.
"There's more, isn't there?" I guessed.
He looked right at me, apprehension written all over his face. "She's pregnant, and she asked me to marry her when I saw her last week."
My eyebrows went up. "Yeah?"
He nodded. "So now I have to move, but I'm dreading the boredom."
"I mean, you can drive anywhere you want on Sundays and find someone who's open for all your sinning. Having a baby out of wedlock, for shame."
He punched my shoulder. "I said I was gonna marry her, didn't I?"
"No, you said she had more balls than you did because she proposed to you."
I laughed. "If you're moving to my side of town, that's great. And you can meet new people; I did."
"Who did you meet in Mayberry?" he asked doubtfully.
"A woman." I cleared my throat.
"And I got drunk and had a one night stand, then ran at first light," I rushed out.
"You had a one nighter? Pictures, or it didn't happen." He crossed his arms over his chest.
I scoffed. "You can't believe I had sex with a stranger, but you think I took pictures of myself having sex with said stranger?"
He stared at me.
"It's a wonder you've ever been laid when you talk like that."
"Like what?" I asked defensively.
"Let the record show the witness is deflecting. Who did you have sex with?"
"You keep interrupting me, I'm not deflecting." He continued to stare at me with one brow raised. I threw my hands up. "Fine! She's a bartender."
"There's only one bar in Forks, and my girlfriend-"
"-works there." He narrowed his eyes at me. "My fiancée works at the bar on the weekends with two other women. Which leaves the married one, and the owner."
"The owner," I said quietly.
"Well, I can see why you wanted her. She's beautiful, a spitfire."
"Spitfire? What are you, 80?"
"Fuck's sake, man, I'm trying to empathize. Did she cut off your balls or something? Tattoo you while you were drunk? Pierce your-"
"Enough!" I stood, pacing alongside the picnic table while Jasper watched me. "I loved it, but it scared me. I didn't remember anything, and it was in reaction to Jane's cheating. Not to mention she and I are nothing alike."
"How do you know? I mean, is that all that has you so out of whack?"
"Yes, Jasper. Being so attracted to a woman that could never feel the same about me is terrifying. Add in the fact that she's a rebound, and I don't know what the hell to do."
"I don't understand. Did she tell you she didn't want to see you again?"
"It's me! Okay? I'm a nerd, a boring, straight-laced nerd. And she's fierce, and strong, and outgoing. She'd be bored with me faster than you'll be bored with Forks."
"You don't know any of these things unless you try. For God's sake, Edward, I was so against moving in with Alice. I was sure it would go horribly, that nothing good would come of it. It took her telling me she was pregnant to realize she's worth everything, and I have to try. I have to put on my big boy pants and make the move to Forks, and be happy." He moved to me, putting his hand on my shoulder. "Choose to be happy, man."